NFL Draft: AFC North Team Needs
One of the most physical divisions in the NFL has seen a decline as a whole over the past couple seasons. There seems to be one elite team, two franchises stuck at 8-8, and the Browns.
In a year where the Pittsburgh Steelers won the division by four games the Ravens, Bengals, and Browns are all looking to make ground up on the AFC powerhouse. Now that the free agency rush is over and under a month till the NFL Draft, it’s time to look at the top five needs for each AFC North squad.
1. Tight End: The Ravens lost Benjamin Watson in free agency to New Orleans and now have a hole at the tight end spot. For an offense that needs playmakers, Baltimore may look to add a tight end in the mid-rounds of the draft.
2. Wide Receiver: Even with the additions of Michael Crabtree and John Brown, the Ravens should look to add a dynamic receiver in the draft. Alabama’s Calvin Ridley could be in play for Baltimore.
3. Center: Losing Ryan Jensen in free agency hurt this offensive line that now has nobody to fill in at center. Expect the Ravens to potentially look for his replacement in the draft or go with current Raven Matt Skura at that spot.
4. Outside Linebacker: Baltimore legend Terrell Suggs isn’t getting any younger and they should begin to look for his replacement soon. GM Ozzie Newsome should look for someone to learn behind Suggs for a couple seasons and eventually take his spot.
5. Quarterback: This spot may come as surprise, but Joe Flacco has been mediocre for a couple seasons now and is only getting older. Finding someone to groom under Flacco could be a goal for the Ravens in this draft.
1. Right Tackle: Cincinnati lost two starters on the offensive line this offseason and now have a huge hole on the right side of the line.
2. Right Guard: Losing Ruddell Bodine and Andre Smith has created the whole at right guard and right tackle. Look for the Bengals to fill one if not both of these positions in the draft.
3. Outside Linebacker: With Vontaze Burfict facing a four-game suspension, Cincinnati may look to find help at outside linebacker in the draft. Burfict’s suspensions and behavior may lead to the Bengals drafting a linebacker earlier than most expect.
4. Cornerback: Releasing Adam Jones takes away the depth the Bengals had at corner and should look to replenish some talent at that spot in the draft. Christian Campbell from Penn State has been a rumored target for the Bengals.
5. Safety: Outside of George Iloka, the Bengals play playmaking in their secondary. This may propel Cincinnati to find a partner for Iloka at safety for years to come.
1. Quarterback: Despite the addition of Tyrod Taylor, Cleveland is continuing to look for their franchise quarterback. Most expect that the Browns take either Sam Darnold or Josh Allen at No. 1 overall to learn behind Taylor.
2. Left Tackle: With the retirement of future Hall-of-Famer Joe Thomas, Cleveland now has a pressing need at left tackle. Signing Chris Hubbard fills the need, but Cleveland may look for another option.
3. Cornerback: The Browns got rid of Jason McCourty this offseason and weakened a unit that was already average at best. Look for Cleveland to go after a slot corner in the draft.
4. Defensive Tackle: Cleveland traded nose tackle Danny Shelton to New England this offseason and now lack a starter on the defensive line. This should be replaced in the later rounds of the draft.
5. Running Back: Despite the signing of Carlos Hyde, many have to speculate that the Browns look to add a back in the draft. This is where the rumors of Saquon Barkley come into play at one of Cleveland’s two top five picks.
1. Inside Linebacker: The injury to Ryan Shazier has made the middle linebacker spot the clear need for Pittsburgh in 2018. Nobody will be able to immediately replace Shazier as a rookie but expect the Steelers to go linebacker with the No. 28 pick.
2. Safety: Despite the signing of Morgan Burnett, the Steelers still lack a playmaker in the secondary. With the slow development of Sean Davis watch for Pittsburgh to make a move for secondary help on Day 2 of the draft.
3. Quarterback: Franchise quarterback Ben Roethlisberger only has a couple seasons left and this might be the year GM Kevin Colbert looks for his future replacement. Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph has been rumored to be a target for Pittsburgh.
4. Running Back: Even though they still have star Le’Veon Bell, it's looking more and more likely that this will be his last season in the Steel City. Finding a cheaper and younger option at running back may be a smart move for the Steelers.
5. Wide Receiver: Despite having stars at receiver in Antonio Brown, Martavis Bryant, and JuJu Smith-Schuster that shouldn’t hold back Pittsburgh for looking at a receiver in the draft. There is a good chance Bryant leaves after the season and Eli Rogers is coming off an ACL injury, so the Steelers may need a No. 3 receiver sooner than most think.
Camden Tofil is a freshman majoring in advertising. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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